Following six straight winning seasons and an AFC #1 seed in 2021, the 2022 Titans have reasons for optimism.
The 2021 season ended on an overwhelmingly negative note as Tennessee were beaten at home behind Ryan Tannehill's 3 interceptions. After an offseason full of questions and criticism, the Titans have completely retooled the players around Tannehill.
Burks was selected with the 18th pick and has a very similar build to Brown. He is versatile and can stretch the field well.
Woods had multiple great seasons with the Rams. He can make defenders miss down the field but can still be a very reliable target in short yardage situations. Assuming he is 100% following his torn ACL last season, I expect Woods to be Tannehill's most reliable target in 2022.
The most notable change from 2021 to 2022 is not an addition, but a return of someone already on the roster: Derrick Henry. Henry missed 9 games last season due to a broken foot but still finished the season with nearly 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Henry's importance to the Titans cannot be overstated. When Henry is going, the Titans are going.
Defensively, the roster remains similar. A change at Cornerback was among the most significant moves as Jackrabbit Jenkins was cut early in the offseason and Rookie CB Roger McCreary was drafted in the 2nd round out of Auburn. Listed as the CB3, Caleb Farley is also returning from a torn ACL which could prove to be a boost.
Much like the offense, the most significant change to the defense was something within the team: Harold Landry's torn ACL. After signing a 5 year, $87.5m deal, the Titans 2021 sack leader was injured in an early September practice.
Titans vs Giants
The Titans Week 1 opponent, New York Giants, are heading into 2022 with a new Head Coach, QB in the final year of his deal, and largely unproven team.
After firing Joe Judge, New York hired former Bills OC, Brian Daboll. Daboll has had great success building successful offensive lines and as a result, run games.
Giants' RB, Saquon Barkley, has been among the most explosive players in the league since being drafted in 2018. He has battled injury in recent seasons but with somewhat of a fresh start with the 2022 Giants, he is a real threat to Tennessee.
While QB Daniel Jones is not the most intimidating QB to face in Week 1, he has enough talent to hurt you. Outside of Barkley, however, he has few targets and may struggle in his first game in a new system.
The Titans defense stacks up very well against the Giants offense. A strong point in 2021, the Titans defense has playmakers at each level and grew very reliable as last season went on.
On the other side of the ball, the Titans offense is less convincing. There are various questions marks like the depth of the O Line and receiver and how Tannehill will fare after a rough 2021. Regardless, I am optimistic as Tannehill's new targets will provide a boost, as will the return of the best Running Back in football.
Overall, the Giants are a team with potential but are not overly worrying. Defensively, they are young across the D Line and have talent but have an unproven secondary. Offensively, I am personally a Daniel Jones fan but the team's commitment to him has waivered a bit too much to give him a lot of confidence.
3 things to watch:
1. The Battle of the Run Games
As aforementioned, the Titans strive when the run game is going, as do the Giants. For Tennessee, Henry is the engine but at the same time, comes into 2022 with a bit of uncertainty after missing most of last season and running behind an uncertain offensive line. Barkley opens up the Giants offense and if he gets going, it is a scary sight. Barkley can make defenders miss as well as anyone in the NFL so containing him is a key to the game.
2. Titans Skill Position newcomers
Robert Woods, Treylon Burks, and Austin Hooper are expected to replace over 150 targets from last season. Their chemistry with Tannehill will be interesting to watch, as will their involvement and role in the offense. Because Woods, Hooper, and largely Burks, did not play in the preseason and it is their first game with Tennessee, there is clear uncertainty for the team's top 3 passing threats.
3. The Young Secondary
Despite being in just his 3rd season, Kristian Fulton is the most experienced player in the CB room. McCreary appears to have had a successful offseason but regardless, a rookie corner is never a sure thing. Nor is Caleb Farley who I continue to be optimistic about but cannot trust with full certainty because of his extensive injury history. Safety is the strength of the secondary and defense as a whole as all-pro Kevin Byard and recently re-signed Amani Hooker form one of the best duos in the NFL.
Overall, I am optimistic about Sunday's game. The Titans stack up very well against the Giants and despite uncertainties, have noticeable strengths.
NFL Week 1
In addition to the excitement that comes with the start of NFL football, the individual matchups in Week 1 are also very intriguing. Below are the most captivating headlines and things to watch for in each game.
Saints @ Falcons
For the Saints, this is Jameis Winston's first game back from a torn ACL suffered midway through last season. The Saints are built for success with a consistent defense and playmakers around Winston.
The Falcons took a step back in multiple areas during the offseason. It is hard to overstate how thin their offense is. While they have explosive young TE, Kyle Pitts, they lack a true RB1, have one of the worst O-lines in football, and have surrounded Marcus Mariota with few reliable targets. The most intriguing aspect of this game is the QB matchup: the #1 overall pick in 2015, Jameis Winston, against the #2 overall pick, Marcus Mariota.
Browns @ Panthers
This is one of the most exciting games of Week 1 as Baker Mayfield will face his former team. In July, Mayfield was traded from Cleveland after voicing consistent displeasure with the organization. His fiery attitude and playstyle is sure to make this game interesting and I see Carolina as a team that could surprise many this season. In contrast, the Browns offseason, which was defined by the acquisition of DeShaun Watson, has been problematic to say the least as show by the fact they are without Watson for the first 11 games of the season.
49ers @ Bears
Trey Lance is heading to Solider Field in an interesting battle of young Quarterbacks. After sitting behind Jimmy Garrapolo last season, Lance is ready to start and is surrounded with one of the most talented rosters in the league. Conversely, Justin Fields had a rough rookie season and has been given few upgrades to make 2022 better. Both defenses have great potential but what I am really interested in is how Trey Lance will fair, especially as we have seen very little from him.
Steelers @ Bengals
Coming off an improbable Super Bowl appearance, the Bengals have an unmatched attitude. As encompassed by Joe Burrow, the Bengals have a 'Cincy vs everyone' mentality and have the team to back it up. On the other side, the Steelers have what I think is a very interesting QB battle between 2022 1st round pick, Kenny Pickett, and former Bears QB, Mitch Trubisky. Both are more than capable, provide upside, and while controversial, I believe they are an upgrade from Ben Roethlisberger, at least the version we saw over his last few seasons.
Eagles @ Lions
Both trendy picks to breakout in 2022, this matchup has many storylines. For Philadelphia, they made a splash over the offseason, acquiring WR AJ Brown from the Titans, and have continued to support one of the most exciting young QBs in the NFL, Jalen Hurts. The Lions have gained a following after being featured on Hard Knocks. I am a big fan of HC Dan Campbell as well as the front office's recent moves to build around Jared Goff and the young defensive core.
Colts @ Texans
The Colts are on their 3rd Quarterback since Andrew Luck's retirement in 2018 and frankly, I don't think Matt Ryan is the answer. The Colts' front office has consistently assembled a fantastic defense, Frank Reich remains a top head coach in the NFL, but the thing holding Indy back is the Quarterback. Houston made few notable acquisitions over the offseason but QB Davis Mills is of interest. This matchup is an underatedly intriguing QB battle as Matt Ryan suits up for the first time with the Colts and Mills hopes to continue to outperform his 3rd round pick title.
Patriots @ Dolphins
The Dolphins were extremely active in the offseason. Most notably, they acquired Tyreek Hill and hired head coach, Mike McDaniel. In a recent interview, McDaniel said that 3rd year QB, Tua Tagoviloa, throws the most accurate deep ball he has seen. The Patriots continue to support another former Alabama QB in Mac Jones which will create an interesting Bama vs Bama matchup. The Dolphins offense, which also added multiple starting-caliber Running Backs, is the thing to watch.
Ravens @ Jets
The Jets are touted by many as a team with great potential but are starting Week 1 with Joe Flacco at Quarterback. A bottom 3 defense in 2021, the Jets made multiple additions and also improved the weapons around young QB Zach Wilson, who will return in a few weeks. The Ravens are a much higher-potential team as Lamar Jackson is back at full health. Jackson, the 2019 MVP, has a similar setup in 2022 to that of his MVP season, making me optimistic about his success this year.
Jaguars @ Commanders
After bringing in Super Bowl winning Head Coach, Doug Pederson, Jaguars fans have optimism not seen in years. Really, though, the only part about Jacksonville that is worth any excitement is QB Trevor Lawrence.
Washington has pieces to have success this week and deeper into the season. While Wentz may not put the team on his back, he has a very talented group of receivers and a defense that, when healthy, can be among the best in the league.
Chiefs @ Cardinals
The Chiefs used the pieces from their Tyreek Hill trade to further solidify the already-improving defense. While they appear to have taken a step back offensively, Patrick Mahomes will not let that happen.
On the other side, QB Kyler Murray is without his top target, DeAndre Hopkins, for the first 6 weeks of the season. Murray was heavily criticized over the offseason as he received a large contract extension. This comes despite Murray being electric in his first 3 seasons in the league. This could be a very high scoring game despite big-name receivers missing from both reams.
Raiders @ Chargers
After playing in one of the most exciting football games I have ever watched, the Raiders and Chargers are set up for a very intriguing opening week matchup.
In the offseason, the Raiders brought in former Patriots' OC, Josh McDaniels, and after a surprise 2021, have further potential for 2022. This game features two explosive and aggressive offenses, making it very intriguing.
Packers @ Vikings
In what I think could be an NFC championship preview, the MVP-lead Packers are looking to prove that Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay are still among the best teams in the league. Rodgers will be without his top target of the last few seasons, Davante Adams, and as a result, has been commonly discussed as many think he will not perform without him.
For Minnesota, there is a lot to watch as they brought in Rams OC Kevin O'Connell as HC, adding him to an already talented and offensive minded team. I am most excited to see how Kirk Cousins fares in year 11 with an increase in talent around him.
Buccaneers @ Cowboys
In the first Sunday Night Football game of the year, we get a rematch of last year's Thursday Night game which kicked off the season. After a tumultuous offseason which included retiring, un-retirng, taking a leave of absence, and losing multiple players across his O Line to injury, Tom Brady is returning for his 23rd season. I am somewhat hesitant to go all in on Tampa as there are just too many factors acting against them. At the same time, though, it is Tom Brady.
For the Cowboys, Dak Prescott's performance will be under close consideration as it always is. I think the Cowboys remain the NFC East favorite and watching Prescott vs Brady will be an intriguing matchup.
Broncos @ Seahawks
Russel Wilson's return to Seattle will be an emotional one. Wilson spent his first 10 seasons with the Seahawks, won a Super Bowl, and had great success. Now with Denver, Wilson has a great, young offense around him and for the first time since Peyton Manning, there is a reason to be optimistic about the Broncos. Seattle, on the other hand, did little to replace Wilson and will not fare well in an already tough division.